The great Austrian diplomat and statesman Clemens von Metternich (1773-1859) declared in 1809 that the diplomatic strategy of the Habsburgs is “to avoid any engagements whatsoever and to flatter.” Metternich’s lesson may have been appropriate during the era of the Napoleonic Wars, when the balance of power was the dominant system of European continental security.
Metternich’s strategy in the longue durée was to forestall France’s bid for continental hegemony. It worked in part because, after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, the Concert of Europe began its illustrious career.
It must be stressed that the Concert worked for Europe and in Europe, but not for the rest of the world. The nineteenth century saw the massive expansion of European imperial conquest. It took one hundred and thirty-three years (India’s independence in 1947) for the geometry of colonialism to begin to fracture and disintegrate.
The formal independence of the hitherto colonised lands and peoples of the Third World was only one moment in the long history of our emancipation. Both before and after formal independence were the decades of struggles institutionally channelled through movements; including, but not limited to, Pan African Congresses, Satyagraha, (and Pan Africanism, more broadly) and, inter alia, the Bandung Conference in Indonesia.
Armed struggles for liberation were also waged in Kenya, Indonesia, Algeria, and Vietnam, among other places. The freedoms of today were earned by the people of the Third World.
The reflections above may also usefully serve as the basis for some thoughts about the role of ABCE and other diplomats in Guyana. The ABCE have a complicated role to play. The central question concerns direct intervention by residing Heads of Missions and their embassies. Surely, Metternich’s perspective on engagement and flattery cannot work. We saw what happened in Rwanda, when more time was spent defining “genocide” than taking concrete steps to stop the mass killings. We are seeing the same thing in Myanmar, where the atrocities against the Rohingyas have not been met with the quality of coercive diplomacy that many think is necessary. Neither British splendid isolation of the early nineteenth century nor Metternich’s flattery (perhaps meant more for Napoléon than anyone else) would stand today.
In Guyana, the ABCE stood firmly against the attempts by the APNU-AFC to conduct election fraud. They stood up against all the technologies employed by the leading intellectuals of the PNCR, WPA, and AFC, who were determined to publicly steal votes by a combination of intimidation and harassment of polling agents. BUT the ABCE were not alone; the stalwarts were also from the Caribbean. Apropos, the indefatigable Sarah-Ann Lynch, Owen Arthur and Mia Mottley set a new standard of direct intervention. They did it to uphold the democratic will of the people.
The diplomacy of the ABE countries (not Canada) in Guyana is complicated for no other reason than that previous foreign interventions are partly responsible for many of the challenges this country now faces. The politics of race came directly out of Cold War global politics, when foreign intervention sowed the seeds of division. At a more structural level, our economy was configured around the economic interests of foreign planter classes and MNCs, without sufficient local content protections or horizontal integration such as is being developed in today’s oil and gas sector.
The challenge of the ABCE countries is to continue to stand strong on the protection of democracy in Guyana. They have strong record in this area. It is also good to see more convergence of their economic interests with ours. What the ABE countries need to be careful about is not to mix up the internal history and politics of the United States with that of Guyana. The concern here is the extent to which the rhetoric of the Opposition to the PPP/C in Guyana is often constructed around images and imaginaries of oppression in America. Guyana has a dramatic post-independence history.
This writer strongly supports the ABCE’s perspectives on diversity and inclusive growth. We should proceed in no other way. I know that inclusive growth and inclusive excellence are indivisible, and I urge the diplomatic community to avail resources aimed at broadening the base of entrepreneurial competence. A diversity-based fund for start-ups would go a far way in accelerating inclusive excellence.
It is the new year, and we have new opportunities. 2022 was a great challenge, but we made it through. Please allow me to personally express thanks to the diplomatic community for their hard work. And, of course, special thanks go to the departing American Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch. Thank you for your sustained “engagement”. You have been the antidote to Metternich.
(The opinions expressed here are my own, and are not related in whole or in part to my place of employment).
Dr Randolph Persaud